I am fortunate enough to be able to attend the USAW Olympic Weightlifting Coaching Certification in January, and I have been pouring over a wide array of material to help me prepare for the testing. This article will take a look at the many benefits and some common misconceptions about Olympic Weightlifting. Thanks to OWresource.com for the information.
Benefits of Olympic Weightlifting
You are probably wondering what makes Olympic Weightlifting a better choice for resistance training than others forms. Weightlifting offers many benefits over bodybuilding, powerlifting, and machines. However, the main reason people do not participate in weightlifting is because they are afraid of getting injury, however this is a false assumption that is easily discredited.
Safety and Injury Aspect of Weightlifting
Various studies were done showing Olympic weightlifting to be the safest form of resistance training there is. One study assessed the injury potential and safety aspects of weightlifting movements and Olympic weightlifting proved to be the safest (Stone, Injury). Another aspect that keeps many people away from weightlifting is the supposed fatal injury to the back. Again this is a false assumption spread through ignorance. A study was done comparing weightlifting to a control group of normal active men and their back pain was assessed. It turns out that only 23% of the weightlifters experienced back pain compared to 31% of the normal active men (Granhed). Another study was performed concerning the injury per 100 hours and yes again weightlifting faired better than other forms of resistance training. In fact, for weightlifters the injury rate was less than half of the other forms of weight training (Hamill). Weightlifting training and competitions together are much safer than other sports such as football, basketball, soccer, etc (Stone, Muscle). It is clear to see that Olympic weightlifting is an extremely safe form of resistance training and sport for people to participant in.
Body Composition Effects
Another benefit of weightlifting is the amount of muscles used in the lifts. The Olympic lifts involve basically every muscle in the human body and this entails a great workout. Olympic weightlifting also forces stabilizer muscles to activate to secure the weight overhead in the lifts. For a recreational lifter Olympic weightlifting will cut down on the exercise time, allowing them to get done in 45 minutes to 1 hour what they used to do in “traditional splits” for 1.5 hours or more! In an 8 week Olympic weightlifting program study, participants lowered their resting heart rate by 8%, lean body weight increased by 4%, fat dropped 6%, and systolic blood pressure decreased by 4% (Stone, Cardiovascular). Not only is Olympic weightlifting safe it is a great way to stay in shape too!
Another important benefit of Olympic weightlifting is it teaches the body to fire all the muscle fibers at once; to explode in a sense (not literally). An 8 week study was done showing the capability of the Olympic lifts to improve sport performance and vertical jump ability. A study was performed and a group of lifters did various Olympic lifts (High pulls, Power Clean, and Clean and Jerk), and were compared to a group using vertical jump exercises (Single and Double Leg Hurdles Hops, Alternated Single-leg Hurdle Hops, etc) and after the 8 weeks of training the Olympic weightlifting group had significantly increased their 10 meter sprint speed and their standing jump over the control group using standard vertical jump exercises (Tricoli). Similarly a 15 week study was also performed using football players and compared a powerlifting program to an Olympic weightlifting program for athletic performance. After the 15 week study was over the Olympic weightlifting group had a significant improvement in the vertical jump and 40 meter sprint over the powerlifting group (Hoffman JR). Clearly there are athletic benefits that come from incorporating weightlifting into a sport training program and similarly Olympic weightlifters are also known for developing great athletic ability.
Effect on Bone Mineral Density
Olympic weightlifting can also help prevent osteoporosis. To put it simply the greater the bone mineral density (BMD) the less chance of osteoporosis occurring. Bone mineral density measures the mineral density, such as calcium, in the bones. Calcium is also constantly being added and removed from bones and when it is removed faster than it is added then the bones become weaker and are more susceptible to fractures. Remember a solid dense bone is much better than one that looks like a honey comb! A study involving elite junior Olympic weightlifters compared their BMD, at the lower back and the neck of the femur, to an exact age group and an age group ranging from 20-39 year old men. The elite junior Olympic weightlifters BMD were found to be significantly greater then the age matched group and greater than the 20-39 year old men (Conroy). It is suggested that the high overloads of stress from Olympic weightlifting have a major influence on BMD. Again Olympic weightlifting has the ability to develop strong healthy bones that are resistant to fractures.
One aspect of Olympic weightlifting that people enjoy is the lifts themselves. People enjoy the feeling of the barbell being weightless as they drop underneath it or they enjoy the speed that it takes to complete the lift or maybe they just enjoy mastering a technical skill. For most people there is a larger sense of satisfaction that comes from successfully hitting a personal best in the snatch or clean and jerk than finally getting those 19 inch arms or something along those lines.
These are just some of the benefits a person can come to expect from participating in Olympic weightlifting throughout their life. Hopefully, this also cleared up the ignorance on the safety and injury aspect of Olympic weightlifting. Participating in Olympic weightlifting is a fun and enjoyable experience that everyone should get to know. References: Conroy, Bp, Wj Kraemer, Cm Maresh, Sj Fleck, Mh Stone, Ac Fry, Pd Miller, and Gp Dalsky. “Bone Mineral Density in Elite Junior Olympic Weightlifters.” (1993): 1103-1109. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 25 (1993).
Granhed, H. et al. Low back pain among retired wrestlers and heavyweight lifters. The American Journal of Sports Medicine,16(5):530-533. 1988.
Hamill, B. Relative Safety of Weightlifting and Weight Training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 8(1):53-57. 1994
Hoffman, Jr, J Cooper, M Wendell, and J Kang. “Comparison of Olympic Vs. Traditional Power Lifting Training Programs in Football Players.” 18 (2004): 129-135. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 18 (2004).
Stone, M. H., A. C. Fry, M. Ritchie, L. Stoessel-Ross, and J. L. Marsit. Injury potential and safety aspects of weightlifting movements. Strength and Conditioning. June: 15-21. 1994.
Stone, M.H., et al. Cardiovascular Responses to Short-Term Olympic Style Weight-Training in Young Men. Can. J. Appl. Sport Sci. 8(3): 134-9.
Stone, M.H. Muscle conditioning and muscle injuries. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 22(4):457-462. 1990.
Tricoli, V, L Lamas, R Carnevale, and C Ugrinowitsch. “Short-Term Effects on Lower-Body Functional Power Development: Weightlifting Vs. Vertical Jump Training Programs.” 19 (2005): 433-437. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 19 (2005).